David is nearing the end of his life. Before he dies, he sets several things in order. His first order of business is the Levites. He reorganizes them.
Knowing his days are numbered, David wants everything he can in order for Solomon to take over. After ensuring Solomon would build the Temple, he turns his attention to those serving in it. This is part of his preparations for the House of the Lord.
The new Temple will be a permanent structure and will not need to be transported wherever the people wandered. It will have different needs. And those who serve in it need to be ready for their new roles.
When God set the Tabernacle in order He divided the tribe of Levi into four groups. Numbers 3 breaks it down for us. I’m HOPING to link up the different groups and give a ‘before and after’ look at their roles.
Levi had three sons; Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. ALL the Levites were to guard the Tabernacle. They were places around it to keep anyone from coming too close during the days of wandering in the desert. They were also charged with transporting the Tabernacle when it was time to move. The descendants of each of the son of Levi had a different task in transporting the Tabernacle. And David assigned them each different roles for the Temple.
Aaron was a descendant of Kohath but his role differed from the rest of the Koharites. The descendants of Aaron were to be the priests before the Lord. Their role would not change. They were the ones to offer sacrifices to the Lord on a continual basis. They were the intermediaries between God and Israel. The line of Aaron also had authority over the rest of the tribe or Levi. This group, along with Moses and his descendants camped on the east side of the Tabernacle.
The rest of the descendants of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the Tabernacle and guard that side. When the Tabernacle moved, they would carry all the items that were within the Tabernacle with which the priest ministered: the Ark, the lampstands, the tables, the altars, the vessels the priests used for ministry and the screens that divided the most holy place.
The descendants of Gershon were to camp on the west side of the Tabernacle and guard it while it sat still. When it moved from place to place their duty was to carry the cloth pieces of the Tabernacle. They carried the Tent itself, the screen for the door, the walls of the outer court, the door for the outer court, and all the cords that held these items in place.
The descendants of Merari were to camp on north side of the Tabernacle and guarded it while it was in place. When it was transported, these descendants of Levi were in charge of the ‘hardware’ of the Tabernacle. They carried the frames, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all accessories connected to these items.
Of the four divisions I have a feeling that those of Gershon and Merari used carts to do the actual ‘heavy lifting.’ I don’t see how they could do otherwise. But the descendants of Kohath personally carried their burdens. Poles were created and attached to the items of furniture of the Tabernacle. The pieces were provided with coverings and then lifted onto the shoulders of the descendants of Kohath.
Under the reorganization of David there were still the divisions but their jobs overlapped. There was no need to carry anything anymore so new jobs were established. The new jobs are not given a designation for which clan is to do what but a number is given instead. Twenty-four thousand of the Levites “shall have charge of the work in the house of the Lord” (verse 4a). These men would include the descendants of Aaron. Aaron’s descendants were still the only ones to minister to the Lord through sacrifices and to serve as high priest. The remaining of this 24,000 would “assist the sons of Aaron for the service of the house of the Lord, having care of the courts and the chambers, the cleaning of all that is holy and any work of the service of the house of God. Their duty was also to assist with the showbread, the flour for the grain offering, the wafers of unleavened bread, the basket offering, the offering mixed with oil, and all measures of quantity or size. And they were to stand every morning, thanking and praising the Lord, and likewise at evening, and whenever burnt offerings were offered to the Lord on Sabbaths, new moons, and feast days according to the number required of them, regularly before the Lord” (verses28-31).
Four thousand of the Levites numbered by David were to be gatekeepers. They were to guard against anyone entering the Temple who did not belong there. They were the guards, as were their ancestors who camped along the four sides of the Tabernacle in the wilderness. I wonder if they were assigned by their clans to correspond with the original guards; Gershon on the west, Kohath on the south, and Merari on the north.
Another 4,000 were to “offer praise to the Lord with instruments” (verse 5c) that David had made. That is a LOT of instruments! This is where David’s heart lay. They would be singing his songs and playing on the instruments he created for generations to come.
When David numbered the Levites they totaled 38,000. The remaining 6,000 were to be “officers and judges” (verse 5b) for the people. I am assuming these judges would be spread throughout Israel to deal with all the issues that arose in such a vast kingdom.
ALL of these divisions would rotate men for service. NO WAY would 4,000 men stand daily in the new Temple playing instruments. Even the BEST coordinated band isn’t that many members strong. And NO ONE would be able to hear ANYTHING after standing in such an onslaught of music. I LOVE music but even I wouldn’t want to be anywhere near a 4,000 piece orchestra! It Heaven it would work but NOT here on earth! I wonder if David would laugh if he heard my idea here. I imagine him thinking it over for a moment and then agreeing that he didn’t want to hear a 4,000 piece band on this side of Heaven either.
I’m wondering how the Levites felt about this new ‘repurposing.’ Were they glad to finally be given a new role? Had those not of Aaron’s descendants felt at loose ends? Did they feel left out since their jobs were essentially finished? Or were they enjoying their ‘down time’? Did they have a ‘role’ in between the wilderness and the Temple? The Tabernacle moved only a couple of times after settling at Shilo.
I can’t imagine living a life of waiting to be called upon and that call never coming. Many generation of Levites were not called on to do their duties assigned to them by God. No matter how much they may have wanted to, there was no task for most of the descendants of Levi. I suppose you could say they were all called to ‘guard duty’ and could have served in that role.
God has a job for each of us to do. The first of those jobs is to “love one another.” The second is to “spread the good news to all people.” These tasks are for EACH of us but God also calls people to specific roles. There are MANY different ‘jobs’ listed in scripture. God calls us and equips us to fill these various rolls. He usually starts with a natural talent He birthed in you to begin with, then nurtures it as it grows, and finally employs those talents in His Kingdom practices. He HAS a plan for each of us. We have to cultivate our relationship with Him to find that place.
Father God, thank You for including me in Your Kingdom plans. I want to serve where YOU put me. I don’t want to try and force myself into a place of MY OWN choosing. I want to give You FULL control over my life. I know that not all places I move into will be perfect for me or even fit me alone. But when YOU call me to something YOU will make sure I have the tools needed to do the task WHEN I rely on YOU in that role. I wonder what ‘repurposing’ You still have ahead for me in my life. I want to be where You need me and where I can have an impact for You.